Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Does Baseball Need Umpires?

Today's Wall Street Journal features a story by Jonah Keri entitled, “Does Baseball Need Umpires? Recent Bad Calls Have Critics Howling for Better Umps, But Maybe It's a Job for Machines.”

Baseball without umpires? What in the world would that be like?

Well, Mr. Keri doesn’t offer a replacement strategy, so I will offer some options for officiating our Grand Old Game after all the umpires get tossed:

Even the most casual fan knows about the $10 million Pitch-f/x system installed in every MLB ballpark. It’s Fox Network’s favorite toy. The Pitch-f/x system determines the location of the pitch once it reaches the front edge of the plate. Umpires have been calling balls and strikes for over 100 years years that “pass through the zone,” but since we are using superior technology to replace the inferior umpires, Rule 2.00 (defining the Strike Zone) must be rewritten. I suggest the following:
The STRIKE ZONE is that area over the front edge of home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from batter to batter by some fancy computer. This is not to be interpreted as implying that the fancy computer or its programmers will use any form of judgment in determining each batter’s strike zone.
I propose a light up home plate, foul lines, and bases. For instance: if the pitch is a strike, home plate will flash green. Everyone likes the color green, it is the color of money. It will remind everyone of the small fortune saved by eliminating the umpires. If it is a ball, the plate will flash red – the same color Earl Weaver’s face would turn when those pesky umpires were still around. Foul ball, red. Fair ball, green. Safe, green. Out, red.

When the cameras in the stadium cannot determine safe or out, I suggest an alternating system of calls, much like a possession arrow in basketball. The “call arrow” will be displayed on the stadium scoreboard.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

About balks: a computer will also monitor the pitcher for false starts and other deceptions. Again, we will have to trust that the programming choices for the baseball super computer are completely fair and neutral. No MIT grads from Boston programming our super computer to watch New York's Andy Pettit. Maybe the mound could explode with fireworks when the pitcher balks? That would be COOL!

Now that we have a baseball stadium resembling a pinball machine, the only remaining problem is what to do when there is a play that is not covered by the rules? Sometimes baseball has that screwy play that requires a judgment decision. Many proponents of technology over human officiating suggest using one human official to make that decision. I agree. No computer could ever make those kinds of tough calls requiring an expert's understanding of the rules and superior judgment. Luckily, there is one person that is already on the payroll and in the stadium that is obviously the most qualified person to make this kind of call.

That person is the television color analyst.

I look forward to seeing this new age baseball played very soon. The future sounds awesome! I will be sure to bring my 3D glasses and propeller cap.

1 comment:

Pete Reiser said...

Fay Vincent chimes in the discussion with his two cents. . . well, its more like one cent. Can't say it makes much sense:

"Building a Better Umpire"